IMPORTANCE OF THE TEACHINGS OF SRI GURU GRANTH SAHIB IN THE PRESENT ERA
Sardar Bhagwant Singh Dalawari
The remarkable universality envisaged in the traditions of Sikhism, in the words and deeds of our Gurus and in the message intended to be conveyed by Guru Gobind Singh’s declaration of Guru Granth Sahib as the perpetual Guru of the Sikhs, is so unique that to me, Guru Granth Sahib can always be considered as the precious treasure of all Mankind. God has given me the experience of participation in inter-faith dialogues over the last 23 years and every time I have faced people of different religions and addressed them, a streak of commonality has run through my psyche on account of the following words of Gurbani :
Bisar gai sab taat prai
Jab te sadh sangat moe paai
Nako beiri nahin begana
Sagal sang hamkau ban aai
(Sri Guru Arjan Dev, p. 1299)
(Ever since I found the company of the Holy (sadhsangat) I lost the sense of mine and not mine. No one is now my opponent, nor am I alien to anyone else; I get along very well with all.
And when I am introduced as the representative of Sikhism, I proudly declare that it is true that I was born in a Sikh family, but as a result of my being the disciple of Guru Granth, I belong to all mankind. So long as anyone lives Truth, remembers the Lord 24 hours and practices universal love, he is my co-religionist, whatever is his label. And, I believe, the core of Sikhi is Love. Love without discrimination, love without any expectation, Love is the name of the one God of all, Love as the creed of religion and faith and love as the direct representation of Divine Presence.
Where would you find the teaching of universal love, universal oneness, universal faith and universal prayer so indelibly impressed in any sacred text of any particular religion? Where would you find an instance of the most important shrine of a one religion having had the privilege of its foundation stone laid by a divine personality of another religion? Where would you find in the religious text of one religion, the sacred divine messages of the saints of other religions? Where would you find the religious prophets of other religions being given the same recognition as its own, expect in Guru Granth Sahib, declared as the perpetual Guru of the Sikhs? And, where would you find that the sacred text of one religion approvingly referring to the methods of worship of other religions? You must be aware of Guru Gobind Singh’s oftrepeated words:
Manas ki Jaat sabhe eke pehchanbo
recognise whole human race as of one caste.
Deora masit soi, pooja namaz ohi
Temple and mosque are the same —
pooja and namaz are the same.
When we discuss the importance of the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib in the present era, it would be natural to talk of the views of Pearl Buck, Arnold Toynbee and other distinguished personalities but I think the best course would be to detail the ills that be devilled the times of our Gurus and the distress that the people faced when the universality of Guru Granth Sahib alleviated the sufferings of both Muslims and Hindus. As a matter of fact, the depredations of the foreign rulers, who happened to be Muslims, trampled upon the rights of Hindus on the one hand and on the other the Hindu priestly class robbed the poor of their religion with their false machinations. Guru Nanak, the apostle of Truth, saviour of the poor and the harbinger of universal love and harmony, came on the scene in the fifteenth century and brought succour to Hindus and Muslims, the latter also being hoodwinked by the Muslim priestly class. Thus, Guru Nanak, brought home to the people, the basics of true religion embodying truth, humility, Love, universality, selflessness and submission to one God of all. The relief that all the people - both Hindus and Muslims - felt at the time, continued to be provided by Guru Nanak’s successors, Guru Angad, Guru Amar Das and Guru Ram Dass and the relative peace that both the communities experienced, encouraged Guru Arjan, the fifth Guru, to lay permanent foundations of a universal, commmon brotherhood without distinctions between Man and Man with equal respect for women. He created Harmandir Sahib, the Golden Temple, our highest seat of worship, installed Granth Sahib, the Holy Book as our Scripture with universality as the hallmark. Paradoxically, this humanitarian oneness so disturbed the bigoted Muslims and their ruler Jahangir, who was upset that a non-Muslim Divine personality should so impress all the people including Muslims. For these acts of peace and human unity, detailed below, Jahengir had Guru Arjan tortured to death. Incidentally, the Pothi that Guru set up became the Guru of the Sikhs at the hands of Guru Gobind Singh, in 1708 in Nanded, when he left the mortal frame.
1. The foundation stone of Harmandir Sahib was laid by Hazrat Mian Mir, a Muslim Divine, friend and disciple of Guru Arjan.
2. The saints and bhagats included by Guru Arjan in his Pothi were, besides four earlier Gurus, Kabir, Ravidas, Baba Farid, Jaidev, Naamdev and others.
3. There was no distinction of faith, worship or label in the selection of saints. All those who dwelt on Naam, as the universal emphasis in remembering the Lord, devoid of karam-kand
4. The Golden Temple is absolutely open to all and has four doors on each side. There is no religious fixture about the direction of worship, to the East, to the West or elsewhere.
5. All the people are welcome not only to worship in the Harmandir Sahib but also to participate in the community kitchen, the Langar, at all times.
When we talk today of the common heritage of man, common problems of Man, common exploitation of the downtroddon, common deprivation of the weaker sections and of women, we have already a perfect system of guidance in Guru Granth Sahib to dictate our path. Let us see.
a) Makes no distinction between Man and Man in its message to Mankind. Anyone — Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Brahmin, Shudra or anyone else — can dwell on its message, improve his human devotion and become a useful human being;
b) Declares emphatically : Khatri Brahmin Sud Vaish Updesh Chau Varna Kau Sanjha (p. 748, SGGS). Whether one belongs to one varna or the other of Hindu society, Guru’s guidance is for everyone.
c) Lays no divisions of caste, creed, sex or of any other kind between Man and Man. Jaat ka garv na kario koi (No one should boast about his caste). To obliterate all divisions of caste, Guru Arjan included saints which were foolishly considered belonging to lower castes, in Guru Granth Sahib. And then the third Guru made a condition for everyone to sit in Langar with the sangat before having his darshan. Thus the so-called high had to sit with the so-called low in devotion to the Guru.
d) This Granth envisages that a Muslim can learn to be a good Muslim by following the messages of Guru Granth Sahib. A Brahmin can become real Brahmin by listening to the Guru’s advice : Brahmin sau jo brahm bichare (Brahmin is the one who meditates on God).
e) Make no distinction between man and woman. In fact the Guru says : Sau kion manda aakyiye jit jammen rajan (how can you cal the one as bad, who gives birth to the kings?) - (Guru Nana Dev, Asa Di Var, p. 462)
Guru Granth Sahib lays emphasis on all aspects of human life and stresses that not only are all human beings of one and the same caste but they belong to the one and the same God of all the people and are like brothers and sisters to each other. Then where is the conflict? In order to examine the relevance of Guru Granth Sahib to the present Era, let us see what ails Mankind today:
1. Inter-religious conflicts which not only lead to riots but also create permanent vested interests in terms of vote-banks, racial superiority, commercial exploitation and humanitarian upheavals.
2. Economic exploitation on the part of privileged entities of underprivileged sections.
3. Real or imagined wrongs done by one country to the other or by one section of the people to the other.
4. Majority vs. minorities, conflicts and grievances.
5. Individual hatred, exploitation.
6. Political chicanery, etc.
7. Snobbery of the educated elite against the less educated.
8. Established perceptions of interests of countries, peoples and those who side with them or go against them.
9. Recent situations resulting from 11th September attacks on the World Trade Centre in the USA and the US-led war against terrorism.
10. Attack on our own Parliament and cross-border terrorism in Kashmir from Pakistan.
First, let us talk of moral values and the pleasures of the senses. And, in the context of the scourge of AIDS staring Mankind into its face, let us savour the following quotes :
Mann ka sootak lobh hai jeva sootak koor
Akhi sootak Vekhana par triya par dhan roop -
(Asa Di Var)
(The pollution of the mind is greed, the pollution of the tongue is speaking untruth. And the pollution of the eyes is to have lustful looks at others wealth and other women — i.e. other than one’s wife.)
Dekh prayiyan chandian mawan bhena dhian jajen
When you look at other women, let your look be as it is on a mother, a sister, a daughter.
Att sundar kuleen chatur mukh gyani dhanwant
mirtak kahiye nanaka je preet nahin bhagwant (p.253)
Even if you are the most beautiful person, the most intelligent, the wealthiest and of the highest family connection, you are a dead body without the love of God.
Indeed the love of God would automatically entail the love of all human beings and would help you shed pleasures of the senses which invariably bring misery, if they remain unchecked:
Jete ras sareer ke tete lage dukh
All that your senses relish beings you pain.
Then we have the cardinal principle of sharing one’s earnings with the downtrodden and we are called upon to take out one-tenths of our income for charity. Guru says: Ghal khaye kichch hathon deh, Nanak eah pachchane eh (let one work hard and share one’s earning. This is Nanak’s way of life). And, in governance, the Guru lays down : Hun hukam hoa mehrwan da, pai koi na kise ranjhanda. sabh sukhali vuthian, eh hoa haleemi raaj. The lord has ordained that no one will harass anyone else and all the world will love in peace in God’s kingdom of humanity. (p.73-74). I again wish to repeat in Guru’s words, the harmony of Mankind:
Aval allah noor upaya kudrat he sab bande
ek noor te sab jad upjaya kaun bhale ko mande -
(Kabir, GGS, p.1349)
The lord Himself created all men from his own light.
How can then we call anyone good or bad?
Sabkau meet ham aapan keena ham sabna ke sajan -
(Guru Arjan Dev ji, GGS)
I have made everyone my friend and I have become the friend of all)
In other words, Guru Granth Sahib insists that all men are not only equal but are to live as friends of each other. And then, there cannot be any religious conflict because different religions are represented in Guru Granth Sahib. Baba Farid is a Muslim saint, Naamdev and Ravidas talk of Rama and Krishna and there is also mention of Pooja and Namaj, the equality of all forms of worship. Guru Arjan finally comes to the conclusion. It is not the label, which counts, nor the dress not the language. Kaho Nanak jin hukam pachchata prabh sahib ka bhed tin jaata (p.885, GGS) – Says Nanak, those who understand the will of the Lord can know the secrets of the Almighty. In other words again, truth is not the monopoly of any religion.
When the Guru stresses Nahau mera dauhman reha na ham kiske bairai (I have now no enemy, nor am I the opponent of anyone), mutual respect develops. Seva and simran alre twin concepts and one complements the other:
Vich duniya sev kamayiye, tan dargeh baisan payiye
(Guru Nanak, p.26, GGS)
If we serve the people in the world, we have a place at the Lord’s Court.
Seva karat hoye nehkaami, tis kau hot prapat swami - (Guru Arjan, p.286, GGS)
Service should be without any expectation or remuneration; then alone can you attain God.
When it is ordained that Man, according to Guru Granth Sahib, is supposed to never think of himself as of high caste, never to assume airs, has to serve all Mankind without expectation of reward or recognition, surely there will be no question of hatred or superiority.
Many conflicts or even wars arise from interest in others wealth or women. Guru Granth Sahib ordains:
Hireh par darab udhar ke raai
agan na nivre trisna na ujhai -
(Guru Arjan, p.298, GGS)
You go in for the others’ wealth or satisfying yourself. Your lust will never be extinguished.
Partriya ravan jaye sai ta lajiyeh -
(Guru Arjan, p.1362)
When you go another woman’s bed, you will come to shame.
If society develops on the basis of
- Equality of man
- Equality of religions
- Equality of prophets
- Equality of interests
- Equality of sexes
and individuals learn to behave in co-existence, progress towards peace and harmony can be phenomenal. Surely I cannot claim to prophesy that Mankind will be in much better shape if it follows Guru Granth Sahib, but I affirm, with the grace of God, that whatever I have learnt from Guru Granth Sahib has made me a universal Man with total interest in sarbat da bhala and total commitment to live in peace with all men and women with deep respect also to their way of thinking. All that my Guru insists is that resistance to tyranny and defiance of oppression must not be abandoned. I must not frighten anyone, nor must I be afraid of anyone.
Let me share with you some instances where Guru Granth Sahib’s teaching was my direct guide. Service of Mankind and respect for other religions are our guideposts. When In Paris on Govt. duty, i used to serve French old people at home on weekends; a French old lady, 94, would embrace me and kiss my turban every time I went to serve her. I used to ask her always to think of Jesus all the time so that she would not feel lonely. When she told me I was a better Christian than others, I told her that I was not a Christian but I loved Jesus. When she came to know that Guru Nanak was our founder, she lovingly pronounced ‘Nanek Nanek’ in French pronunciation. “But, in any case, you have restored my faith in Jesus”, she told me in deep affection. The same thing happened in the case of a Pakistani Muslim who met me in the Metro. A young doctor greeted me with Sat Sri Akal and, after pleasantries, I asked him whether he was regular in Namaz and whether he would return to Pakistan after advanced training to serve his people. He was pleasantly astonished and told me just when we were separating: Khuda Hafiz, I shall never forget that a non-Muslim in a non-Muslim country reminded me if my religious duties of prayer and service.” I was merely living the Master’s dictate: Aap japo avra naam japavo (sing the praised of the Lord yourself and make others do so).
Again, it is exactly in trying to live Guru’s message in life that I have been living with leprosy patients in Tapoven for nearly 23 years. I am trying to learn humility, submission, and acceptance at their feet and while they are mostly Marathi of different castes, some are Muslims and few may be Christians. I am the lone Sikh or Punjabi, but in terms of the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib, they are all my brothers and sisters, my parents or my children. I have learnt forbearance, forgiveness, love, harmony and integration at their feet. And, in addition, there are hundreds of events which, in terms of the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib have given me the experience of loving co-existence with all kinds of people I was privileged to live with in Egypt, in China, in Belgium, in France and in Guinea in West Africa. If, as the preamble of UNESCO sys, war starts in the minds of men, so does PEACE. And what better understanding of peace can one receive than by following and living the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib.
Having said all that I have said about and clearly imbibed the lessons of Guru, I have one deep anguish. The great scriptures, the great works of Man, the great teachings of the Prophets have not produced the societies that were envisaged. Nor did ideologies prove adequate to create a peaceful co-existence for all human beings. We have seen Bluestar, we have seen Assam massacres and we have recently seen the Gujarat massacres after the Godhra tragedy. It seems that Man has learnt nothing from the past. And, although, it was thought that the United Nations after the; League of Nations, would be able to create permanent peace, the dream has remained a dream. In any case, the Constitution works if those who work under it are sincere and we have seen that Man still exploits, Man still lusts for greed and power, Man still exploits the poor and Man still is selfish. But there are outstanding examples of those who have contributed to building of peace and harmony.
I say, with a sense of shame and agony that the Sikhs too may parade religion, may sing high praises of Guru Granth Sahib and may quote great personalities who have thought of Guru Granth Sahib as the scripture of the whole world, but they have themselves not lived its teachings. I point a finger not only at our Chief Ministers and other highly placed individuals who pay lip service to Sikhi but do not practice it, but I also regret the Jathedars’ role in belittling its teachings. The collusion between the SGPC and the Jathedars for keeping their Gaddi, has brought disgrace to us as community and has made us a laughing stock for other. If we only parade the greatness of Guru Granth Sahib and suggest the importance of its teachings on the present era, we have to show ourselves as the living examples of the effectiveness of Guru’s message of peace and harmony for the whole world. I am quite certain that if we had lived the teachings of our Guru, Guru Granth Sahib, we would have been universal human beings and the whole world would have sought our advice and guidance. However we only praised our Guru, we covered the Holy Scriptures with fineries and were satisfied that we honour our Guru. Our lives — and practical and social, do not give the impression that really we attach importance to the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib. I dare say the majority of Sikhs do not even know what the Guru says. Celebration of Gurpurabs, recitation of Gurbani, holding of Akhand Paths is not the importance part of Guru’s teachings. What we have to show in our life is that we have become universal human beings, free from hatred, jealousy, slander, greed and self-love and we devoted ourselves to the ceaseless remembrance of the Lord with love for all human beings, amritvela prayers and we live our lives in accordance with the dictates of Guru Arjan in the Sixth Ashtpadi of Sukhmani Sahib. Living fully as householders and enjoying life fully but not getting attached to materialism and remembering the grace of the Lord all the time, would automatically goad us to live for the good of all (Sarbat da Bhala). But what we see today is internecine quarrels among our Jathedars and leaders ordinary materialists push for pelf and power and illegitimate lust for money. Surely, that does not show that we attach importance to the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib.
I am convinced that Guru Granth Sahib’s teachings are imperative if mankind is not to drown itself, but we have to commit ourselves to live these teachings. People the world over would automatically be impressed and would be compelled to look for the avenues, which make us the supernatural human beings, which we will become, if we adhere to our Guru’s teachings. In brief, the good of all, tolerance and love for all human beings, peace and harmony among all human beings, service of the downtrodden, universal prayers and clean life will be our hallmarks. Some time ago I wrote an article in a London Sikh magazine that Sikh is the ambassador of love to All Mankind and he receives these credentials from Guru Granth Sahib. When he presents such credentials to all the human beings irrespective of caste, creed, sex, country, religion, sect or region, he is automatically received with love. When love begets love and the entire mankind receives the teachings of universal love, peace, truth and humanity, the world becomes humane. In the humane world, the cause for conflict and disharmony is eradicated. I wish to conclude with a saying of Guru Nanak to remind ourselves that if we want the world to know the importance of the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib, we must live them. Talking of them would be of no avail:
Gali assi changian achari burian
Manon kusadha kalian bahron chitvian -
(P. 85, SGGS)
We are good in talking, but bad in living; we are dark in the mind, but show ourselves as white externally
Let the world see the importance of Guru’s teachings in the Sikhs day-to-day life and imbibe them for peace and harmony.